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GALE’S PRIZE OLD ALE – A MARBLE BREWERY AND FULLER’S COLLABORATION

Posted: 2017-11-09 By admin

As collaboration beers go, this is my great white whale. For years I’ve been hunting down and drinking Gale’s Prize Old Ale; for me, it’s a beer that epitomises a beautiful tradition in British brewing – vatted Old Ales. It’s a beer that is nearly impossible to come by without delving into the complex and often dark world of bottle trading, as it hasn’t been brewed since 2006. This rare style of beer is usually complex, oak-aged, heavily bretted and in some cases quite tart.

 

 

I find Old Ales to be as fascinating and complex as Flanders Reds and Oud Bruin from Belgium, their mixed culture fermentations give them an initial complexity but with age comes even deeper layers of complexity this. Every time I drink these beers I think about the possibilities that would exist if British breweries continued to brew in this manner, and update the way in which they present the beer. I’d been dreaming of doing just that for many years, until a series of direct messages on Twitter from Fuller’s John Keeling got the ball rolling.

   

We met up, had a pint, and discussed our love of the beer and why the world needs Gale’s Prize Old Ale back in its life. That settled it; we decided to brew it at Marble Brewery at the very start of 2016.

 

We started things off by exchanging recipes. From there, I scaled the original recipe from 1926 down to Marble size – the water profile was a challenge, but it worked out well. There’s a charming linkage between Gale’s and Marble, as our Marble house yeast strain is said to be Gale’s in origin, so we were off to a good start there.

 

Total Hardness as CaCO3          

 399

Calcium

 143.69 

Sodium

 7.44

Magnesium 

 7.44

Chloride

 195.61

Sulphate

 211.68 

Alkalinity as CaCO3

 72

 

with Calcium Chloride @ 1.5g/ per kg and no gypsum added to Mash.

Malt:-

Pale Ale                                

 88.0%

Crystal

 2.4% 

Chocolate

 1.3%

Glucose Syrup 

 8.3%

Mashing Temp

 71C

Sparge Temp

 74C 

IBU

 53

 

Bittering: Challenger and Goldings @ 0.059 AA/K- an approx. 50/50 split based on AA.

Aroma: Fuggles and Goldings @ 0.009 AA/K with Fuggles the dominant aroma hop 80/20 split.

 

The brew day went well, and fermentation progressed as planned. Famously, Gale’s fermented their Old Ale in oak vats and then transferred to Hogsheads before bottling. As we don’t have any foudres, vats or similar vessels, I decided to ferment this first beer clean in FV, inoculate with Gales mixed culture and then fill into barrels after that.

 

I had four types of barrel available to me:

 

Second-fill Bourbon barrels

First-fill Madeira

First-fill Barbera

Second-fill Pinot Noir

 

A chance meeting with a former Gale’s brewer gave me further insight into their brewing process and ageing techniques. They prefer to set the beer to rest Hogsheads for a year before bottling to allow the Brettanomyces to work on it, ensuring the flavour to had time to stabilise somewhat.

 

Obviously, we also don’t have vats or barrels containing Gale’s mixed culture in residence, so we planned to transfer after primary fermentation into Conditioning Tanks and inoculate the beer with 100L of the last Prize Old Ale brewed at the original Thomas Hardy’s site. Fullers had stored that batch safely in-tank since 2006. I’m not going to lie to you, I sampled that beer, and it tasted great.

 

Once I’d inoculated our beer, I purged each barrel with CO2 and filled them. Over the next year, I kept an eye on the beer, moving it to warmer or cooler areas of the brewery depending on how the Brettanomyces character was developing and to minimise acetic acid production.

 

Each individual barrel and each different type of barrel lent a slightly different characteristic to the beer; the big decision I had to make was how to blend. I had thought to create an overall blend and package it as a single beer, but decided the character from the different types of barrels was significant enough to warrant packaging separately. Once I was happy with the maturity of the beer, we packaged into bottle and keg to condition.

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR BARREL AGEING PROGRAMME

 

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